PLAINFIELD – Holding onto a two-touchdown lead against DeKalb in the fourth quarter, Plainfield North decided to go for it on a fourth-and-inches on its own 28-yard line.
Tigers coach Tim Kane went to what worked all game – pounding the Barbs with a run.
North converted and scored on both of its time-consuming drives in the second half to open the season with a 35-21 win at home Friday night.
“Obviously, they have a good offense – they have some good weapons – so we didn’t want them to get the ball back,” Kane said of his decision to go on fourth down. “It’s one of those deals of, ‘How badly do you want to win the football game?’ Our kids did a nice job, and that was a big play.”
North converted the fourth-and-inches on a 1-yard run by senior Zach Shelton.
The Tigers didn’t punt the entire night and scored on their last three drives – including a 17-yard touchdown pass from quarterback JD Ekowa to tight end Kyle Speas in the closing minute of the first half for a 21-14 lead heading into halftime. On the night, Ekowa finished 9 for 20 for 102 yards, a touchdown and an interception but only attempted two passes in the second half.
North used a trio of running backs. Junior Tyler Hoosman had 143 yards on 19 carries, junior Niko Capezio 10 carries for 76 yards and a touchdown and Shelton 14 carries for 75 yards and three touchdowns.
“You have to make stops on third down against a team like Plainfield, and we didn’t,” DeKalb coach Matt Weckler said. “To be successful, you have to get the ball in your hands.”
North outgained the Barbs, 399-264, and had 297 rushing yards.
However, the Barbs’ rushing game struggled against the Tigers, gaining only 46 yards, and North sacked Kyler, who had three long runs in the first half, nine times on the night.
Weckler said the struggles with the ground game caused the Barbs to be one-dimensional on offense, resulting in the Tigers’ sacks – six in the second half.
The Barbs got inside the red zone on their opening two drives of the second half, but the Tigers successfully kept DeKalb from coming away with any points.
Trailing, 21-14, coming out of halftime, the Barbs had the ball on a first-and-goal from the 5-yard line but eventually turned the ball over on downs. The Tigers responded with a 13-play, 87-yard drive that left 1:16 remaining in the third quarter.
The Barbs got to the North 17-yard line on their next drive, but once again turned the ball over on downs. The Tigers answered with an 11-play, 82-yard drive that ended in a touchdown that sealed the game.
“That was pretty huge to do that,” Kane said of the two stops. “To get the lead and keep them out, our kids made some big, big plays. It takes the momentum away from them and hurts them mentally to keep them out.”
DeKalb junior quarterback Derek Kyler went 13 for 25 for 218 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. His favorite target was 6-foot-2 junior Cole Tucker, who had seven catches for 127 yards and two touchdowns and had three receptions for at least 22 yards.